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League of Legends

2019 LPL Spring Split Preview and Predictions

Mike Plant

China’s LoL Pro League, known as the LPL, starts back up on Monday, January 14th. The 2019 Spring Season consists of 16 teams playing a single round robin with best of three matches. We preview the players and teams you should be keeping an eye out for in China in 2019.

Will RNG continue their dominance in the LPL or will the powerhouses see their reign end?

Will RNG continue their dominance in the LPL or will the powerhouses see their reign end?

Breakout Player: Knight

There are not a lot of players—even world class players—that can stand up in lane to Rookie, but Knight has shown the potential to go toe-to-toe with him. That much was obvious in the Demacia Cup Winter Finals, where Topsports Gaming fell to Invictus Gaming 1-3. Knight finished the series with an impressive 28/11/22 KDA and looked very comfortable against the World Champions.

While sitting out the 2018 Summer Split, Knight was dominating the Korean Solo Queue ladder, holding rank 1 for long stretches. He is best known for his assassin play and putting pressure on teams in 1-3-1 split pushes in side lanes. Ekko is his top comfort pick, but he has shown the ability to play the entire range of mid lane champions. In a region that has always prioritized mechanics over macro prowess, Knight will be a star in the LPL in 2019 and will help Topsports Gaming compete for a title.

Most Impactful Player Transfer: Maple and SwordArT to Suning

Suning already had a great core. Smlz and XiaoAL are arguably the second best bot and top laners in the region, and H4cker settles in nicely as an upper-mid tier jungler who can control the pace of the game. Adding Maple and SwordArT to that mix will elevate Suning from playoff contender to title contender. They don’t always get the respect they deserve because the LMS as a region is so weak and Flash Wolves has disappointed in their last couple of Worlds appearances, but Maple and SwordArT were their best players and now get a teammate upgrade.

By the same token, it is an important year for everyone on this roster. They are all playing with better players than they’ve ever had before, so results are expected. Smlz and SwordArT have never played with players as talented as each other and Maple has threats in every lane to take the pressure off. It’s always tough to expect teams to come together immediately, especially when players are transferring to another region, but Suning will be major players in 2019.

Most Valuable Player: Rookie

There’s a strong possibility that Rookie won’t win an MVP award in 2019. The only reason for that is there might be a player who nears his dominance and voters want to reward that player after Rookie has already taken home every award of significance. His play is on another level. With his performance on the Worlds stage, we no longer have to speculate on his ceiling as a player at any given moment. Now we see how long he can sustain his elite level. His matchup in the opening game of the season against Knight will be a treat.

Rookie league of legends

Dark Horse Team: JD Gaming 

JD Gaming lost their jungler Clid to SK Telecom T1, so you know he was good. But that doesn’t mean that JD Gaming are not poised to make some noise in the LPL in 2019. Zoom and YaGao are the next up-and-coming solo lane stars in China. Bringing in Flawless and Levi to compete for time in the jungle should allow JDG an adequate replacement for Clid in the jungle. And, oh yeah, they added a Hall of Fame level talent in imp.

Skeptics will say that Levi and Flawless won’t be able to match up to Clid’s play, YaGao and Zoom aren’t ready to challenge the elite solo laners, and imp is washed up. The start of a new year and new season is a time for new hope, though, and JD Gaming fans have that in their 2019 roster.

Team That May Disappoint: EDward Gaming

EDward Gaming returns all five players from a team that finished 3rd in the LPL in 2018 and reached the quarterfinals of the World Championship. What’s not to like? As of now, the meta remains slanted toward early game and laning power, so EDG looks good in that regard. But what if the meta changes, like it always does, during the season? We watched them get outclassed in macro against Fnatic, not to mention that the LPL always boasts some of the most mechanically gifted teams in the world. EDG will have to add a new element of team coordination in 2019.

Speaking of that team coordination, they also have a very relevant coaching change heading into 2019. Following the loss to Fnatic, NoFe announced his departure as head coach and went back to Korea to join Afreeca Freecs. The new head coach, Heart, is no slouch, but NoFe is well respected across the industry and it would be impossible to call any move an upgrade. Maybe EDG will benefit from a new voice in the room, but more likely they will struggle early as they find new direction.

Title Favorite: Invictus Gaming

Who else can you pick when a team is coming off back-to-back 18-1 regular seasons and a World Championship. They return all five starters and have no discernible weaknesses in lane. To imagine a scenario in which they struggle, we have to concoct specific metas that could allow the team to struggle. As long as Riot doesn’t move back to the mid laner Ardent Censer and late-game team fighting meta immediately, we like IG’s chances in 2019. Even then, they have another year to grow and are surely working on their team fighting weaknesses from 2018.

LPL Power Rankings

UZI RNG celebrates winnings

Teams come from out of nowhere, top teams fall apart, and that’s why they play the games. But heading into the 2019 Spring Season, these are early LPL Power Rankings with a quick thought on each team.

16) Vici Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 2-17

2018 Summer Record: 2-17

Top: Zhao “Aodi” Ao-Di

Top: Xia “Chelizi” Han-Xi

Jungle: Li “Aix” Yang

Jungle: Zeng “Youdang” Xian-Xin

Mid: Choo “FireRain” Hwa-woo

Mid: Chen “Jay” Bo

Bot: Ding “Puff” Wang

Bot: Wu “Snow” Hao-Shun

Support: Duan “Caveman” De-Liang

Support: Su “Southwind” Zhi-Lin

Vici Gaming are coming off a rough 2018 and will be looking to find a core of players to build around in 2019.

15) SinoDragon Gaming

2018 Spring Record: N/A

2018 Summer Record: N/A

Top: Jiang “Changhong” Chang-Hong

Jungle: Wang “Xiaopeng” Peng

Mid: Huang “Twila” Ting-Wei

Bot: Chen “Gala” Wei

Support: Ling “Mark” Xu

Support: Lu “Mitsuki” Jia-Lun

SinoDragon promoted from LDL as one of the two new LPL teams in 2019. They have kept their roster intact for 2019, but face a tough road against stiffer competition.

14) Victory Five

2018 Spring Record: N/A

2018 Summer Record: N/A

Top: Lim “Jinoo” Jin-Woo

Jungle: Tu “Ben4” Xin-Cheng

Jungle: Hu “Pepper” Zhi-Wei

Mid: Lei “Corn” Wen

Bot: Wang “Y4” Nong-Mo

Support: Le “Realey” Yi

Support: Yun “Road” Han-gil

Victory Five are the other new squad in the LPL for 2019. They have acquired some players deemed expendable by other rosters and hope to find something to build around for 2020.

13) Bilibili Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 11-8

2018 Summer Record: 6-13

Top: Kang “ADD” Geon-mo

Jungle: Lee “Chieftan” Jae-yub

Jungle: Zeng “Meteor” Guo-Hao

Mid: Lee “Kuro” Seo-haeng

Bot: Xie “Jinjiao” Jin-Shan

Support: Xie “Kine” Chao

Support: Peng “Mni” Fang

Bilibili Gaming added Kuro from Afreeca Freecs in the offseason in hopes of solidifying their mid lane. With ADD in top lane, they will rely on Meteor in jungle in 2019.

12) Team WE

2018 Spring Record: 9-10

2018 Summer Record: 6-13

Top: Ke “957” Chang-Yu

Top: Kim “Poss” Min-cheol

Jungle: Jiang “beishang” Zhi-Peng

Jungle: Zhou “Magic” Jun-Xuan

Mid: Chen “chen9” Yi-Bing

Mid: Su “xiye” Han-Wei

Bot: Yao “GENTLE” Xi-Jian

Bot: Jin “Mystic” Seong-jun

Support: Lou “Missing” Yun-Feng

Support: Wang “Sun” Xu-Zhuo

The original esports club of China, Team WE looks to be in for another dark 2019 unless they get some unexpected breakout performances from their large roster.

11) Oh My God

2018 Spring Record: 5-14

2018 Summer Record: 5-14

Top: Hu “Xiyang” Bin

Top: Hu “Ale” Jia-Le

Jungle: Zhou “l3est16” Zhi-Li

Jungle: Xue “Mountain” Zhao-Hong

Jungle: Zhao “Penguin” Shuai

Mid: Xie “icon” Tian-Yu

Bot: Li “Chelly” Yu-Zhou

Support: Liu “Five” Shi-Yu

Support: Wu “Xuan” Zheng-Hang

Another of the original clubs, Oh My God is not in a much better spot than Team WE. They could use an infusion of fresh talent to give the organization life in 2019.

10) LGD Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 6-13

2018 Summer Record: 9-10

Top: Guo “Lie” Hao-Tian

Jungle: Xiang “Condi” Ren-Jie

Jungle: Xie “Eimy” Dan

Mid: An “Ian” Jun-hyeong

Mid: Hu “Yuuki” Hao-Ming

Bot: Ha “Kramer” Jong-hun

Bot: Liang “RD” Teng-Li

Support: Chen “Pyl” Bo

LGD Gaming made some moves in the offseason, bringing in Lies, Condi, Ian, Kramer, and RD. It likely isn’t enough to move them to the top half of the league, but they are a team with upset potential.

9) Snake Esports

2018 Spring Record: 12-7

2018 Summer Record: 7-12

Top: Li “Flandre” Xuan-Jun

Jungle: Lê “SofM” Quang Duy

Mid: Zhang “Andy” Jie

Mid: Yang “Mala” Hyeon-jong

Bot: Lu “Asura” Qi

Support: Hu “Maestro” Jian-Xin

Flandre is really good. Snake Esports will hope that their combination of Andy and Mala mid lane can match his talent and that Asura and Maestro will give them a more formidable bot duo in 2019.

8) Rogue Warriors

2018 Spring Record: 13-6

2018 Summer Record: 14-5

Top: Jiang “Jiangqiao” Jia-Feng

Top: Liu “Zhaoyun” Shuang-Yin

Jungle: Li “Xuzhu” Yu-Qing

Mid: Tian “HuaTian” Mai

Mid: Liang “Jungtian” Shi-Hui

Mid: Huang “KongMing” Yi-Jun

Bot: Mei “ZWuJi” Hong-Hui

Support: Liu “Killua” Dan-Yang

This may be high as the roster was completely overhauled in the offseason, but we’re giving the benefit of the doubt to an organization that has had two consecutive strong splits.

7) FunPlus Phoenix

2018 Spring Record: 9-10

2018 Summer Record: 8-11

Top: Kim “GimGoon” Han-saem

Jungle: Gao “Tian” Tian-Liang

Jungle: Chang “Xinyi” Ping

Mid: Kim “Doinb” Tae-sang

Bot: Lin “Lwx” Wei-Xiang

Support: Liu “Crisp” Qing-Song

Doinb had a great 2018 on Rogue Warriors and should spearhead a top half finish for FunPlus Phoenix in 2019.

6) EDward Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 14-5

2018 Summer Record: 11-8

Top: Jeon “Ray” Ji-won

Jungle: Ming “Clearlove” Kai

Jungle: Chen “Haro” Wen-Lin

Mid: Lee “Scout” Ye-chan

Bot: Hu “iBoy” Xian-Zhao

Support: Tian “Meiko” Ye

The loss of NoFe looms large, but EDward Gaming still boast a mechanical powerhouse of a team and have great international experience.

5) JD Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 10-9

2018 Summer Record: 13-6

Top: Zhang “Zoom” Xing-Ran

Jungle: Sung “Flawless” Yeon-jun

Jungle: Đỗ “Levi” Duy Khánh

Mid: Zeng “YaGao” Qi

Bot: Ju “Bvoy” Yeong-hoon

Bot: Gu “imp” Seung-bin

Support: Zuo “LvMao” Ming-Hao

Our dark horse pick looks primed to break out in 2019. Keep an eye on the developing synergies between the starting jungler and Zoom/YaGao, as well as imp and LvMao bot lane.

4) Topsports Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 3-16

2018 Summer Record: 10-9

Top: Bai “369” Jia-Hao

Top: Xiong “Moyu” Hui-Dong

Jungle: Xiong “Xx” Yu-Long

Mid: Zhuo “Knight” Ding

Bot: Lee “LokeN” Dong-wook

Bot: Zhang “QiuQiu” Ming

Support: Nam “Ben” Dong-hyun

Support: Wu “Cat” Yao

Teams aren’t exactly at 100% heading into the Demacia Cup, but Topsports Gaming looked good in reaching the finals. We expect them to be contenders in 2019.

3) Suning

2018 Spring Record: 9-10

2018 Summer Record: 10-9

Top: Xie “XiaoAL” Zhen-Ying

Jungle: Yang “H4cker” Zhi-Hao

Mid: Huang “Maple” Yi-Tang

Bot: Han “Smlz” Jin

Support: Hu “SwordArT” Shuo-Chieh

When you bring in talents like Maple and SwordArT to accompany XiaoAL and Smlz, you expect to bring home hardware.

2) Royal Never Give Up

2018 Spring Record: 12-7

2018 Summer Record: 14-5

Top: Shek “AmazingJ” Wai Ho

Top: Yan “Letme” Jun-Ze

Jungle: Hung “Karsa” Hao-Hsuan

Jungle: Liu “Mlxg” Shi-Yu

Mid: Li “Xiaohu” Yuan-Hao

Bot: Jian “Uzi” Zi-Hao

Support: Shi “Ming” Sen-Ming

The top team of 2018 heading into worlds, RNG head into 2019 as an underdog for the first time in years. We hope to see them shy away from the put-everything-into-Uzi strategy that they displayed at Worlds and return to the style that made them dominant early in 2018.

1) Invictus Gaming

2018 Spring Record: 18-1

2018 Summer Record: 18-1

Top: Lee “Duke” Ho-seong

Top: Kang “TheShy” Seung-lok

Jungle: Gao “Ning” Zhen-Ning

Mid: Song “Rookie” Eui-jin

Bot: Yu “JackeyLove” Wen-Bo

Support: Wang “Baolan” Liu-Yi

The undisputed top team heading into 2019, the questions around the team are more about potential complacency and meta shifts than anything concrete. Improving their team fighting will be their priority for 2019.